Tag: life long learner

I LOVE Scrivener… Now That I Know How to Use It!

I’ve been using Scrivener for about five years, give or take a few months. I loved it from the moment I started just for the way it organized my writing. but I never used it much beyond a word processing tool. Last summer I watched a free online video by Scrivener Coach, Joseph Michael, and I was so impressed. There were so many more things Scrivener can do – including formatting everything from epubs to mobi files to paperbacks to plays and more! I decided I needed to delve a bit deeper.

But… I figured as a long time Scrivener user, I should be able to figure things out for myself. I wasn’t about to pay some self proclaimed ‘expert’ to show me how to do it. Scrivener itself offers tutorials and there are tons of videos online, so I took those free tidbits from Joseph Michael and continued on my merry Scrivener way.

Things changed drastically when I went to format a book. I had done it before using ‘Word’ but apparently it was so much easier with Scrivener and the same file could be converted to an epub, mobi, paperback, pdf… whatever was needed with just a few clicks.

About forty hours later, bleary eyed from watching confusing youtube tutorials and upmteen ‘trial and error’ compilations, I gave up. Compiling my files for publication just wasn’t as intuitive as I had thought.  In desperation I signed up for Joseph Michael’s course,  LEARN SCRIVENER FAST


I’ve managed to format and publish multiple ebooks, paperbacks, and pdfs. I organize my blog posts using Scrivener, and I even do a lot of my outlining using the cork board function. I can’t imagine writing without it and whenever I run into a snag, all I need to do is go to Joseph Michael’s easy to follow videos and VOILA! Problem solved!

LEARN SCRIVENER FAST has continued to be the best investment I’ve ever made in my writing career!

One year later, after paying for the course, I’ve decided to become an affiliate of Joseph Michael’s program. I mean, I’m always advising others to sign up for his courses, so why not get paid while doing it?

So… if you have ever thought about taking the course (and if you haven’t, you should! It’s SO worth it!) you can do so through any of the links on this page, or by clicking on the ad in the sidebar. You’ll get the benefit of Joseph Michael’s training (which you won’t regret) and you’ll help me out, too. Win-win!

I’m preparing to teach a workshop at Inscribe’s Fall Conference this September on Scrivener Basics. It will be VERY basic, since there is only so much one can do in an hour. I will be recommending that students sign up for Joseph Michael’s training. it is truly an amazing course and worth every penny hundreds of times over!

Why I’ve Become a Hybrid

This article was originally posted on Kim Rempel’s blog on March 31, 2017 under the title

What 16 Publishing Contracts Taught Me About Ego, Publishing, and Making Money as a Hybrid Author-Preneur

I used to think finding an agent and securing a traditional publishing deal was the pinnacle of writing success. It would prove I was legit. I’d finally be able to call myself a writer without feeling like a fraud.

Since my first book came out in 2009, however, my thinking has changed. I’ve signed sixteen traditional contracts, had an agent, said good-bye to that agent, used a vanity press twice, and self-published using both Createspace and Lightning Source. I’m a hybrid – a new breed of writer trying to use the best from both worlds.

The Truth About Traditional Publishing

Before we go any further, I should set the record straight about what some of these terms actually mean. Traditional publishers do not charge any kind of fee. Period. These can be big New York firms or small boutique houses, but there is no cost to the author in a traditional contract. Instead, the writer gets paid for their work, through an advance, through royalties on books sold, or both.

There are still many pros to traditional publishing. Besides the assurance (most of the time) of a quality product, one’s books have access to the company’s distribution channels. There are none of the headaches of managing all the production and bookkeeping responsibilities. However, there are some serious downsides, too. Authors have minimal control over their own work. There can be restrictions on the cover, launch date, and promotions. Less of the profit goes to the author since he or she is also fueling the larger machine of the publishing company.

Don’t Make These Newbie Publishing Mistakes

I’ve had a few less than stellar experiences with books that were traditionally published. My first book deal was for my book, And The Beat Goes On. I later learned that this particular publisher also charged for services (a vanity press), but in my case there was no charge of any kind. I worked with multiple editors, cover designers, proofers, etc. I didn’t know much about contracts, so I signed a seven-year deal for a 6% royalty on the cost price. The book originally came out in hardcover and sold for $30. Since my royalty was on the cost price, not the list price, I ended up making about $.87 per book. Even if you’re not a mathematician, you can see that I would have to sell a lot of books to make any money! However, I was just thrilled to have signed a real book deal and I was naïve enough to think that my books would suddenly start flying off the shelves.

I had a rude awakening when I realized I was still expected to do much of my own marketing. As well, my hands were tied when it came to giveaways, pricing, or sales. Add to that, the fact that I could not make any changes of any kind for seven long years since I no longer had the rights to my own work.

Here’s another story about my agent. I will not name him here, but he was a very nice man, and again, when he agreed to represent me I was thrilled, thinking I’d finally arrived. (This was a few years after that first book deal.) The first contract he found me was for my book, Wind Over Marshdale, with a small ‘boutique’ publishing house. The deal was for a much more substantial royalty, but remember, he was entitled to a 15% cut of whatever royalties I made. After hearing from readers who wanted a sequel, I decided to write a novella length story called Lone Wolf, which basically answered the question on everyone’s mind, “What happened to Thomas?” My agent felt that pitching a novella, even to the same publisher, wasn’t a smart move. I asked him if I could pitch it myself and he said, “Go ahead.” (In my case, my agent had first rights to any subsequent work I might produce.) I pitched it to the same publisher and they wanted the book, so I signed with them without my agent – meaning more royalties for me!

The story doesn’t end there, however. He had in his possession another of my manuscripts called, Three Strand Cord. He was busy pitching it to various large houses with no success. Again I suggested trying the same boutique publisher, but he didn’t feel that the royalties or distribution channels would produce a high enough return to make it worthwhile. In the meantime, that manuscript was floating around from publisher to publisher for more than a year, totally out of my control. Finally, after much prayer and a few emails, we decided that it would be best if we parted ways. It was a very amicable parting and I have nothing against him. He did his best for me, but I was beginning to realize that the bureaucracy of the traditional system, with all its gates and red tape, was not something I was interested in pursuing anymore.

A Warning on Self-Publishing

One of the biggest issues with the modern era of self-publishing is the glut of poor quality books out there. I’m not, by any means, saying all self-published books are poor quality. On the contrary, modern author-preneurs are becoming savvy marketers. Part of that means realizing that substandard quality may begood enough for the first book, but it will not sell future books. It’s worth the investment to outsource such things as editing and cover design.

 The Freedom of Hybrid Publishing

Authors no longer have to be bound by seven-year contracts or agent’s wishes. We have the means to take control of our own writing careers and maybe even make some money at it. While I’ve signed a fair number of traditional deals, I’ve also seen the wisdom in learning the ropes of self-publishing using Createspace and Lightning Source, two of the most well know DIY platforms.

I don’t plan to self-publish exclusively, though. All of my stage-plays have been published traditionally in the US and I do quite well on the performance royalties. In this case, these publishers have a reach I could never hope to duplicate. It wouldn’t make sense to re-publish them myself, since I would stand to lose significantly.

Similarly, at this time, I am not planning to get the rights back for a couple of my other books. Clean Reads, (formerly Astraea Press) a small press who published both Wind Over Marshdale and Lone Wolf, treats their authors very well. I’ve made some wonderful connections, and have been involved in some amazing promotional opportunities with them. Why would I want to leave?

There is no one answer, just as there is no ‘one way’ to get published. The advantages of being a hybrid are many. And a growing number of high profile authors are now also going the indie route. They’ve made a name for themselves via the traditional route, but now find they have more flexibility and control over their own work.

There’s nothing wrong with doing both; there is value and validity to each method. It is up to individual writers to choose what path makes most sense in any particular situation. Like never before, writers have truly become the authors of their own destiny.


Even Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks

Who knew after seventeen years as a Drama teacher I could still feel stage fright? (Not from being on stage, as I will explain…) In that time I’ve directed and produced somewhere around thirty shows, but my experience in drama goes beyond that to involvement in church productions, practice teaching, and my role as a playwright. Yet it never ceases to amaze me that I still learn new things with each production.

Recently my extra-curricular group, the ‘KodiActs’, performed one of my published plays called ‘Ali and the Magic Lamp’. It’s a twisted parody of the classic tale where Ali is a skateboarding teenager and Genie has attitude to spare. The troupe performed four shows over a two day period and by all accounts it was a smashing success. The audience had no idea the anxiety that took place before the show or the somewhat scary turn of events backstage during the last performance.
Crisis number one: My school does not have a stage so every show we have to rent one and construct everything from the ground up, including a complicated truss system for hanging the lights and every
thing else that goes with it. I have a lot of confidence in my ability to direct and produce a show. Inevitably, despite set backs and various crisis situations, everything seems to come together. However, I have no illusions about my abilities when it comes to construction. I’ve always relied on people who are more mechanically inclined (most notably my husband) to help me with these aspects. This year, however, my husband was away working and I had to rely on my own abilities to get the job done. I had a few sleepless nights just thinking about the logistics of ladders, and power tools…

Of course, I’ve seen it done dozens of times, but this time I was actually the foreman, showing students how to bolt together a thirty-two foot truss and then raise and mount it above the stage. I had to demonstrate how and where to screw all the stage flats together to make the backdrop, making sure the twelve foot centre archway didn’t come crashing down in the process. I had to help string electrical cable and hang heavy (and expensive!) stage lights, although I did find a brave volunteer to climb the ladder who was also stronger than I,  to make sure they were clamped in place and wouldn’t come loose during the show.

In all, it was a fantastic learning experience for me. it showed me that I could do this part of the job. I’d often wondered how I would manage without my right hand man there to help me, and now I know I can do it. It gave me a new sense of accomplishment.

But that’s not the whole story…  Enter ‘Crisis number two’: During our final performance, one of the actors had a seizure on stage. (She is being tested for epilepsy and had a similar incident last year backstage. But this time it happened on stage during a scene!)

I was so proud of how my other young actors handled things. They’ve been trained by the old motto, “The show must go on,” so her scene partner ad-libbed his way through the initial awkwardness and I immediately called for lights and music. When I got backstage, she was out cold. With the help of another teacher and a couple of other actors we managed to get her off the stage and out into the foyer. Her parents were called immediately, (we have a contingency plan in place since the incident last year) and the rest of the play went forward with her understudy completing the play.

Although there was a longer than normal scene break at one point, some of the audience didn’t even know what happened. I mentioned it at the end of the show and the student in question got a nice round of applause. Meanwhile, she had been ‘out’ for almost five minutes in total. Her parents took her to emergency and she was disoriented when she came to, but she was otherwise alright.

This was another first for me. I’ve had actors sick and throwing up backstage; panic attacks, last minute substitutions, and as I said, one similar incident with a seizure (but at least it was off stage!) It just goes to show that even when you think you’ve seen it all, something new is bound to happen. Like I said, even this old dog can learn a few new tricks.


Reach Your Readers A Lightbulb Moment

20161016_184230Ever wonder why one person finds a book boring while someone else finds it fascinating? Why a friend raves about a certain author and for you their book falls flat? I just might have the answer…

Dayna Mazzuca’s workshop called ‘Reach Your Readers’ was one of the most fascinating workshops I attended this past September at Inscribe’s fall conference. In it, she attempts to answer these questions and sheds some light on what writers can do to reach their specific audience.

Her premise is that everyone of us perceive the world in a different way. We each have a nonverbal language and because of this we gravitate to people who ‘get’ us. (If you ‘get’ somebody, there is an inherent desire to spend more time with them.) Part of this theory is that we tend to read through our own set of lenses, too. This is your ‘readers style’ if you will, and we all have one. (It reminded me of the ‘Five Love Languages’ only the focus was on reading preferences.)

Usually, we write in the same way that we read. If we can identify our own ‘reader style’, we can more easily find our ideal readers, and therefore we will be more successful. We won’t be grating against the other demands of the other types of readers. People aren’t generic, of course, and it is difficult to slot everyone neatly into a box. However, readers do tend to be extremely consistent. How we read is a reflection of how we see the world. Once we learn to write for our readers (and subsequently market to them as well) the connection will be deeper and easier to make.

Five Types of Readers:

  1. Scholar: Likes to have solid research and trustworthy facts. Trust is the most important thing. Can they trust what is written?
  2. Social Connector: This is not necessarily an extrovert. They ask the question, “Who is involved?” They identify with the characters most and like things to be current.
  3. Change Agent: Wants to move things forward. Asks, “What is the purpose?” Persuasion is key.
  4. Adventurer: these readers like action. What is the next adventure? They are immersed reader and feel deeply during reading.
  5. Mystic: These readers are very analytical and reflective, immersing themselves internally in the writing. They are looking for the deep meaning.

This has less to do with genre and more to do with the style of writing. She gave wonderful examples of each type within one genre. I thought I would be more ‘mystic’ but in fact I think I am more of an ‘adventurer’ with ‘social connector’ tendencies.

Her book CALLED TO WRITE is available on iBooks.

I’ve Been Schooled

School is about to begin and I can’t help thinking about the many years I’ve been part of this ‘world’…

 Public School Teacher: I’ve done my time in the public arena, let me tell you. I started out back in 1984 when I finished my teaching degree, and knew I’d found the perfect profession! Perhaps I was idealistic, but I seriously loved my job as an intern in a Saskatoon High School as a senior Art teacher. Several moves, pregnancies and choices to ‘stay at home’ to raise my own kids interrupted the ‘bliss’, but throughout those years, I maintained my certification in five provinces/territories and did lots of substitute teaching to help supplement the family income. I did one year as a Kindergarten teacher back in the eighties – an experience that definitely reaffirmed my calling as a HIGH SCHOOL teacher.

I reentered the teaching force on a full time basis back in 2001, and for the most part, I still love my job. Of course, I teach all the things I’m passionate about – Art, Drama and English – so what could be better? (Being able to write full time, perhaps?) In any case, I can’t imagine having to get up each day and go to a job I hated. For that, I am very grateful.

Homeschool Mom: During my ‘stay at home’ years, I decided to homeschool my four children. I had been fascinated by the movement even back in my University days when one of my professors told us he and his wife ‘Unschooled’ their children. I did lots of reading and research, and finally took the plunge when my eldest daughter was going into Grade Four. What fun!  I love the creative approach, so we spent many happy years (nine to be specific) doing projects, reading good books, and just enjoying each others company and the discovery of learning that went with it. I used all kinds of different resources, but I always liked to put my own creative spin on things. Charlotte Mason soon became my hero and I still try to incorporate much of her philosophy into my classroom. She believed in reading lots of good books, learning English through ‘real’ writing and reading, Science through observation, Socials through History – basically, a classical education with lots of hands on. (Of course, her recommendation that children should be introduced to Shakespeare as early as Grade Two brought a resounding ‘YES!” from this Bard Buff!) All in all, I think my children appreciated and benefited from those years we spend discovering together. I know I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Fourth Generation: Interestingly, I am a fourth generation teacher. In fact, most of the females on my mother’s side were/are teachers or involved in the education industry in one way or another. I had wonderfully creative mentors within my own family to look to or to swap ideas with in both my professional career and my homeschool days. My own mother was a huge inspiration to me in so many ways. She taught me (literally – she taught me Grade Six) what a good teacher is supposed to look like, and I am honored to follow in her footsteps.

Still a Student: Okay, I admit it. I’m a nerd cause I love going to school. Honestly, I thrive on learning new things. Even though I am not formally taking any classes at the moment, I think it behooves each of us to remain life long learners – people who are curious about things and just want to learn more. I know I have been on a steep learning curve when it comes to marketing, promotions, and everything related to using technology. I also recognize my ongoing status as ‘student’ when it comes to the writing process itself. Finally, as a Christian, I know I will be a purpetual pupil as I sit at the Master’s feet.

My dear friend Jacqueline Millen – one of the most vibrant people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know – said it well when she stated that ‘to stop learning and growing is to die’. She did die several years ago at age 87, but let me tell you, she put her words into practice. Jacqueline was a petite little adventurer with a French Canadian accent who was young at heart to the end. She was so much fun to be around – one of those people you actually WANTED to be near. Even in those latter years, she was trying new things, going places, and learning, learning, learning. She was fascinated by all kinds of topics, did lots of reading, tried new things (like line dancing and even climbed a mountain!) and always kept up with the latest fashions. (No frumpy ‘granny’ duds for her!) Most of all, though, she loved Jesus, and had a voracious appetite for spiritual food. She was the embodiment of a ‘life long learner’.

So, whether you are on the teaching or the student end of the spectrum; whether you homeschool or you are part of the public system; or whether you have been around for a long time or not so much – this is a great time to reflect on your own learning journey. Just when we think we’ve arrived there is something new around the corner. But then maybe the process is what is really important in this traverse after all.

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